Living the Expat Dream in Singapore: Top 7 Areas for Foreigners to Call Home


March 15, 2023

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For many people, moving to a new country can be a daunting experience. However, for those considering Singapore as their new home, there are many reasons to be excited. Singapore offers a unique blend of cultural diversity, economic prosperity, and world-class amenities, making it an ideal place to live. As an expat moving to Singapore, you will have the opportunity to experience a vibrant and cosmopolitan lifestyle while enjoying the security and comfort that our city-state provides. From the bustling city centre to the tranquil heartlands, there is something for everyone.

With that said, there are certain areas that expats in Singapore favour over others. In this article, we explore some of the most popular estates to live in amongst foreigners and expats.

*The below list is not in any particular order.  

1. Bukit Timah

Bukit Timah is an affluent residential area located in the western region of Singapore. It is home to several prestigious schools, including Chatsworth International School and Swiss School, making the area highly popular among expat families due to its proximity to such international schools. 

Bukit Timah is also known for its lush greenery and nature reserves, such as the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the Dairy Farm Nature Park. There are plenty of hiking and cycling trails, as well as picnic spots, making it a great area for families who enjoy outdoor activities.

The rental market in Singapore has been on a hot streak since travel restrictions were lifted and borders opened across the world. The recent inflation and interest rate hikes have added oil to fire, resulting in a 21% spike in average rental prices between 2021 and 2022.

Expats tend to rent 1- to 3-Bedroom condo/apartments either for single occupancy or for a small family, because of the hefty Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) imposed on property purchases made by a foreigner. If you are still torn between renting or buying, we invite you to read our article here where we break down the pros and cons for you to weigh the decision. 

At the time of writing, the estimated monthly rental for a studio apartment in the Bukit Timah planning area is upwards of $3,500 and can go up to $5,500. 2-Bedroom and 3-Bedroom units command an asking rental starting from $4,500 and $7,500 respectively, with some larger units asking for as high as $18,000 per month. 

There is also a large concentration of landed housing in the area. Those who prefer landed living for better privacy or are more accustomed to landed living as they did back at home may opt to rent landed properties instead. For landed properties, renting the whole unit comes at a premium and can easily set you back by 5 to 6-figure sums monthly, hence it might not be as practical to do so. On the other hand, room rentals in landed homes are generally more affordable and can cost as little as $1,500 per month for a small common room or up to $3,500 for a master bedroom.  

2. Holland Village

Holland Village, or “Holland V” as it’s commonly known, is a vibrant and cosmopolitan neighbourhood located in the heart of Singapore. With its unique blend of modern amenities and traditional charm, it’s no surprise that Holland V has become a popular destination for expats looking to settle in Singapore.

One of the main draws of Holland V is its central location. Situated just a few minutes from Buona Vista, the neighbourhood offers easy access to a wide range of job opportunities and entertainment options. From world-class restaurants and shopping centres to top-notch medical facilities and schools, Holland V has it all.

Another reason why expats love Holland V is its diverse community. The neighbourhood is home to a mix of locals and foreigners from all over the world, creating a unique and welcoming atmosphere.

One of the most popular attractions in Holland V is its bustling nightlife scene. With a wide range of bars, clubs, and restaurants, the neighbourhood is the perfect place to unwind after a long day at work. From trendy rooftop bars to laid-back pubs, there’s always something happening in Holland V.

Despite its modern amenities and bustling atmosphere, Holland V has managed to maintain its traditional charm. The neighbourhood is home to a number of historic buildings and landmarks, including the iconic Holland Road Shopping Centre and the famous Holland V Market & Food Centre. These cultural treasures offer a glimpse into Singapore’s rich history and heritage, making Holland V a truly unique place to live.

Belonging to the same district 10 as Bukit Timah, the prices in Holland Village follow a similar trend. Rental prices for studio apartments start from a lower $3,000, although there were a few listings below the $2,000 mark for units under 300 sqft at the time of writing.  

3. Orchard/Dhoby Ghaut

The Orchard/Dhoby Ghaut area is a renowned location in Singapore that is popular amongst locals and expats alike. Situated in the central area of Singapore, it is an energetic hub of activity that offers a range of amenities such as restaurants, cafes, bars, shopping malls, cinemas, supermarkets, and other essential conveniences that make it an ideal location for expats seeking ease and accessibility in their daily lives.

Transportation is a breeze in the area, with multiple bus stops and MRT lines that make it easy for residents to get around the city quickly and efficiently. Additionally, the area is known for its luxurious lifestyle and high-end living, with a plethora of high-end condominiums, serviced apartments, and hotels available to meet the discerning taste of expats who prefer a more lavish lifestyle.

The area also boasts a significant expat community, which provides newcomers with the opportunity to connect with like-minded people from all over the world. This international community helps to foster a sense of belonging and makes it easier for expats to adjust to life in Singapore. For expats with school-going children, Orchard is also home to several international schools, including ISS International School and Dynamics International School.

The vibrant nightlife is another factor that attracts expats. The area is renowned for its range of bars, clubs, and restaurants that cater to different tastes and preferences, providing a lively and exciting environment that is ideal for those who enjoy socialising and exploring the city.

Because of its status as Singapore’s premier shopping belt, the prices of housing in the Orchard district command a premium. Rental rates also saw a 22% increase between 2021 and 2022 due to market conditions.

At the time of writing, the most affordable apartments for rent in the area can be found in Mount Sophia, which is closer to Dhoby Ghaut MRT station. For a quick comparison, 1-Bedroom apartments at Sophia Hills are listed at around $4,500. In contrast, for the same amount, you may be able to rent a 4-Room HDB flat in Tampines. This disparity in rental prices puts into perspective what foreign tenants should consider when looking to rent a property in Singapore. Whether the considerations are for space or better convenience, there are viable options around the island.

4. Sentosa Cove

Sentosa Cove is a world-renowned residential enclave located in the southernmost part of Singapore, known for its luxurious homes, stunning marina, and breathtaking views of the sea. This stunning location has become an extremely popular location for expats in Singapore to live in, and for good reason.

Most landed properties in Singapore are under strict regulations when it comes to foreign ownership. However, the major advantage here is that the criteria for foreign ownership of properties in Sentosa Cove are less stringent. For more information about the process of buying a property in Singapore as a foreigner, do read our step-by-step guide here.

Over the past 10 years from 2012 to 2022, there have only been 22 transactions in Sentosa Cove, which means that units here rarely exchange hands. It also means that the current owners can afford to hold the properties while waiting for the right offer, which makes sense since the units here are targeting the more affluent market.

One of the key factors that draw expats to Sentosa Cove is its location. This exclusive residential area is situated on Sentosa Island, just a few minutes away from Singapore’s central business district. This means that residents of Sentosa Cove can enjoy the best of both worlds – the peace and tranquillity of island living, coupled with easy access to the vibrant city centre. With excellent transportation links, residents of Sentosa Cove can easily commute to work, attend cultural events, or enjoy the bustling nightlife of Singapore.

Another major attraction of Sentosa Cove is its stunning waterfront properties. The luxurious homes in Sentosa Cove boast some of the most spectacular sea views in Singapore. Residents can wake up to the sound of waves crashing against the shore and enjoy breathtaking sunsets from the comfort of their own homes. The area is also known for its exclusive yacht marina, which attracts boat enthusiasts from all over the world. The marina offers residents the opportunity to dock their boats just a stone’s throw away from their homes, making it a dream location for those who enjoy a nautical lifestyle.

Sentosa Cove is also known for its excellent facilities and amenities. The area boasts a range of world-class restaurants, luxury hotels, and exclusive shopping outlets. Residents can enjoy a round of golf at the Sentosa Golf Club, visit the Universal Studios theme park, or relax on one of the pristine beaches that surround the island. There is always something to see and do in Sentosa Cove, making it an ideal location for those who enjoy an active and vibrant lifestyle.

As you would expect, rental for landed properties, especially for a location like Sentosa Cove, comes at a premium. At the time of writing, there are 5 listings on PropertyGuru, with the lowest asking rent being $22,000 for a partially furnished 5 Bed, 6 Bath corner terrace. 

5. Marine Parade/East Coast

The Marine Parade/East Coast area is one of the most coveted locations for expats in Singapore to live in, and it’s not hard to see why. Known for its beachside living and outdoor recreational activities, the neighbourhood offers a unique blend of modern amenities, natural beauty, and cultural richness that is hard to come by in other parts of the city-state.

One of the main draws is the proximity to the sea. Situated along the eastern coast of Singapore, residents can easily access East Coast Park, a sprawling recreational space that boasts over 15 km of coastline. Here, residents can take a leisurely stroll along the beach, cycle, or rollerblade on the park’s many paths, or simply sit and enjoy the stunning views of the ocean.

Aside from its natural beauty, the area also offers a plethora of amenities. For one, the neighbourhoods are well-connected to other parts of the city-state, with several MRT stations and bus stops within easy reach. This makes it easy to commute to work or explore the rest of Singapore.

In terms of entertainment and dining options, the area is home to numerous malls, restaurants, cafes, and bars, offering a wide range of choices when it comes to leisure and socialising. There are also several seafood restaurants in the area that are popular among locals and expats alike. From high-end shopping centres to quaint indie stores, there’s something for everyone in this neighbourhood.

Perhaps one of the biggest draws for foreigners and expats, however, is the rich cultural heritage. The area is steeped in history, with many landmarks and buildings dating back to Singapore’s colonial era. Expats who live in this area can immerse themselves in the city-state’s multiculturalism, exploring its diverse neighbourhoods and trying out different cuisines from around the world.

Like the other areas in the list, rental prices in Marine Parade have trended up since 2021. Highlighting the growth between 2021 and 2022, the area saw a 22% spike in rental prices – a testimony of the hot rental market that has been in the headlines this year.  

At the time of writing, the rent for a studio apartment in Marine Parade can go as low as $1,600 per month and as high as $4,500 depending on the size and general location of the property. Because of the city fringe location of Marine Parade, it is possible to find affordably priced rentals, but prices are generally higher for bigger unit types in high-end condo projects.

6. River Valley

Nestled in the heart of Singapore, the River Valley area is a picturesque locale that boasts an eclectic mix of both modern and traditional architecture. The neighbourhood is near the Singapore River, which lends it a serene and tranquil atmosphere that is a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. The river runs through Clarke Quay, which is famous for its clubs and nightlife. The river itself is lined with numerous cafes, restaurants, and bars that cater to a variety of tastes and preferences.

Situated just a stone’s throw away from the Central Business District (CBD), the neighbourhood offers easy access to the city. In addition, the area is well-connected by public transportation – in fact, it is surrounded by five different MRT networks, which makes it easy for residents to travel to other parts of Singapore.

Another key factor that contributes to the popularity of this area is its vibrant and diverse community. The neighbourhood is home to people from all over the world, which makes it a melting pot of cultures and traditions. This creates a unique and inclusive atmosphere that is welcoming to all.

In terms of amenities, it is hard to beat. There are numerous supermarkets, shops, and malls within easy reach, as well as a range of recreational options such as parks, gyms, and sports facilities. There are also several international schools nearby, including the Wise Oaks International School and Dimensions International College, for expats with school-going children.

The area has a mixture of high-end condos and more affordable apartments. Looking at the general rental trend, the prices here have been holding steady the past few years until the spike between 2021 and 2022. 

At the time of writing, studio apartments in River Valley are asking for a rent of close to $3,000, although there are a few smaller ones that are asking for slightly lower. Bigger unit types like 3-Bedders command rentals of at least $7,000 and can go up to 5-figure sums. 

With the number of high-end condominiums in this area, the price disparity for similar-sized units can get rather big. This means that rather than looking at the general rental trend of the area, tenants should be looking into the rental trend of specific projects they are interested in to get a better sense of their affordability.

7. Geylang

Despite once being notorious for its status as Singapore’s red light district, Geylang has begun shedding that reputation since the pandemic shut down most brothels’ operations. With recent developments in the area, Geylang has earned another namesake as the second Chinatown. Now known for its bustling street markets, delicious local food, and vibrant nightlife, it has become a popular location to live in for expats in Singapore.

One of the biggest draws of Geylang for expats is its central location. Geylang is well-connected to the rest of Singapore, with easy access to public transportation and major highways. This makes it a convenient base for expats who work in the CBD or other parts of the city. Residents living in Geylang can also enjoy a greater range of lifestyle, retail, and entertainment options thanks to the nearby Singapore Sports Hub.

With the upcoming redevelopment of the Paya Lebar Air Base, the area will also see a major business hub and many job opportunities injected into the region. The close proximity of Geylang puts it in an excellent position to take advantage of the developments. 

Another reason expats love living in Geylang is its diverse community. Geylang is home to people from all over the world, including many expats from countries such as the United States, Australia, Europe, and China. This creates a vibrant and welcoming atmosphere, with plenty of opportunities to meet new people and make friends.

Geylang is also known for its excellent food. The area is famous for its hawker centres, where you can find a wide variety of delicious and affordable local cuisine. From classic Singaporean dishes like chicken rice and laksa to more exotic fare like frog porridge and durian, there is something for everyone in Geylang’s hawker centres.

From the chart, it is clear that Geylang is seeing a lot of appreciation in terms of rental play. The lower rental rates in the past can obviously be attributed to its previous reputation, but the huge spike in 2021 is a sign of that image being shed. With renewed interest from tenants and upcoming developments, the area is poised to see further transformation in the near future.  

Of the areas listed in this article, the 3-Bedders in Geylang has the lowest asking rent, starting from $5,500. As a city fringe location that is minutes away from the CBD, this area could be attractive to those with a tighter budget. 

Closing Comments

To wrap up, moving to a foreign country can be a daunting task, but Singapore’s diverse and welcoming community make it an ideal destination for expats looking for a place to call home. Whether you prefer the hustle and bustle of the city or the peacefulness of suburban living, there is a place for everyone. With a reliable transport system and access to top-notch amenities, foreigners can experience the best of both worlds – a cosmopolitan lifestyle while enjoying the island’s natural beauty. 

Singapore’s cultural melting pot provides a unique opportunity for personal and professional growth, making it an excellent choice for those seeking new experiences. Regardless of which area you choose, we hope that your stay in Singapore will be one filled with plenty of unforgettable experiences and endless opportunities. 

If you are looking for your new home away from home and would like some guidance, do reach out to us here and we will be glad to help. PropertyLimBrothers, always happy to show you the place.

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